Aspen boy raises money to feed homeless shelter on Christmas |

Aspen boy raises money to feed homeless shelter on Christmas

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
Nathan Levey with sandwich certificates for the homeless last winter.
Courtesy photo |

Aspen Homeless Shelter holiday wish list:

• Old camping gear (tarp, tents, sleeping bags)

• Warm clothing (jackets, sweaters, layers, socks, hand-warmers, blankets)

• Used silverware and dishes

• Counter-depth fridges (no more than 25 inches deep from front to back)

• Microwaves

To donate to Nathan’s cause, email Georgina Levey at

When Nathan Levey turned 12 in November, he asked his friends and family members not to give him any presents.

Instead, the Snowmass native is encouraging people to help donate to his cause of raising enough money to purchase a sandwich for every person at the Aspen Homeless Shelter on Christmas.

“Last year, it was very, very cold, and it made me think, ‘I can’t wait to have this warm (food) now or when I get home,’” he said. “But (homeless people) can’t go home to that, so that was really what made me think about doing this. If I were in their shoes, I would feel really happy that I had somebody thinking about me and somebody who actually gave me a little bit of a Christmas gift.”

This is Nathan’s second birthday that he’s swapped gifts for donations during the holiday season.

“It was very, very cold, and it made me think, ‘I can’t wait to have this warm (food) now or when I get home.’ But (homeless people) can’t go home to that, so that was really what made me think about doing this.” -Nathan Levey, 12, on raising money to buy sandwiches for the homeless shelter on Christmas

With the help of his mother, Georgina Levey, and contributions from the community, Nathan met his goal last Christmas of providing all 32 homeless people, plus the employees at the shelter, with a certificate for a sandwich and a drink from the Grateful Deli.

The sandwich shop also supported Nathan’s efforts by discounting the gift certificates, allowing him to feed more people.

While Georgina, a teacher and cofounder of Aspen Middle School’s service learning program, planted the philanthropic seed at an early age, she credited this idea wholly to Nathan.

“I was amazed when he said he wanted to do this because it wasn’t led by me at all,” she said. “It was totally his idea, totally his motivation, and I just supported it.

“It’s also significant because kids his age sometimes have a hard time looking beyond themselves. It’s a really authentic way for him to be able to show that he’s maturing and willing to give up a birthday to a cause that seemed important.”

For Nathan, the thought-process seemed simple.

“I’ve been given a lot this year, and last year too, (so) it was really time to change it up for me,” he said. “It was something that was fairly easy to work out on the spot and also something that was easy for other people and wasn’t a lot to give.”

With $400 in donations to date, the sixth-grader believes he’s exceeded his sandwich goal and also hopes to provide everyone at the shelter on Christmas with socks and gloves — one of their greatest needs at this time of year (see sidebar for a complete holiday wish list).

Aspen Homeless Shelter executive director Vince Savage said the organization relies on the generosity of people like Nathan.

“We subsist on the kindness of strangers,” Savage said. “We do, and people in Aspen mostly have huge hearts when it comes to helping people in the cold months, especially.”

He cited an adage by Mahatma Gandhi that the shelter often quotes: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

“I think that’s a fabulous thing to learn while you’re still young,” Savage said. “We learn more from our experiences than from reading or writing … and the experiences of giving are really important ones.”

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